hack Archive

Almost three years I published an article detailing how to remotely buzz yourself into an apartment building. In the time since, new technologies have made it even easier to interact with your home remotely. Below, I detail an updated remote door buzzer that works with mobile phones and even Apple Watches. Furthermore, the basic setup is extensible to lighting systems and any other action that can be controlled by a shell script.


The ultimate workflow is simple and is as follows:

  1. On your smartphone or Apple Watch, send a Yo to a custom-created recipient
  2. Your door buzzer will be activated

To achieve this, we’ll be using a custom-made circuit that electronically switches the door buzzer. To control the circuit remotely, we’ll be using a Raspberry Pi home server that will receive casually authenticated signals over the internet sent via the Yo app (https://dashboard.justyo.co/).

Required Gear

The following items will be used to create your phone-controlled door buzzer:

  • Raspberry Pi — Any Raspberry Pi model should work, but I’m using the Raspberry Pi Model B+. You’ll also need an SD card (micro SD in the case of the B+ model) with at least a few gigs of space, and all gear


I’m a newly minted Pebble owner — going on three days. As the novelty of receiving SMS and e-mail on my wrist becomes my new normal, I’ve been looking for more ways to use the device. Sitting in Starbucks only one hour ago, it occurred to me that I could replicate Starbucks’ digital payment method currently enabled by iOS Passbook (and its native app) on the Pebble e-watch. All I needed was enough real estate to show the barcode with sufficient resolution that the reader would pick it up. Apparently the Pebble has enough real estate even on its tiny 168×144 screen, and I have just bought my first drink paid for with my Pebble.

This being my first Pebble app, what follows is horribly ugly.

I knew that I wanted to use a watch face as a template. Pebble treats “watch faces” different than “watch apps” — the most important distinction being that you can access watch faces from the home watch view simply by hitting the up or down keys and scrolling through them. Watch apps (like calculators or games) are accessed through the selection button, then you scroll through all your app


The Guardian recently published an article arguing that overly-frequent consumption of “news” is bad for us: it misleads, increases cognitive errors, and may actually make us less healthy by constantly sparking our flight-fight responses.

Regardless of whether we’re slowly killing ourselves with news, it resonated with me because I realize that my consumption of news is bordering on obsessive, or at least it’s what I turn to first when I’m bored and find myself viewing the same landing-pages over and over mindlessly. Even if there is fresh content to entertain me, I can’t remember the last time The Huffington Post actually added value to my life. At the very least blocking these sites will improve my productivity. Consequently, I devised an easy tool to block news sites at the click of a button, and to turn them off again with another click.


By customizing your Windows-machine’s HOSTS file, you can block websites temporarily without any third party software. The file that maps web hostnames to IP addresses. Hostnames are the textual identifiers of network devices, for instance you can name a printer on your network ‘speedy’ or you can access a website at the host name ‘cnn.com’. Websites’ hostnames